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Saturday
Apr092011

Wood Gives Away the Plate

Why is Brandon Wood such a terrible hitter?  Since the start of the 2008 season, he posted a .169/.200/.257 slash line.  That might be okay for a pitcher, but a major league third baseman can't survive with such low averages.  Part of the problem is that Wood gives away a large part of the plate.

Brandon Wood, taken strikes, 2008-2011.That's a huge area where he is taking pitches that have almost no chance to being called balls.  One reason he may take there is that he often swings and misses those pitches:

Brandon Wood, swinging strikes, 2008-2011.Note that little green donut hole on the inside half of the plate?  That's Wood's hot zone:

Brandon Wood, in play average, 2008-2011.So he can't hit balls on the outside part of the plate, so he takes those pitches hoping to get a ball down and in.  His taking strikes leads to another problem as well:

Brandon Wood, ball rate on taken pitches, 2008-2011.Look how far off the plate a pitcher needs to throw before the umpire gives Wood the ball call.  The dotted line represents the area of uncertainty, yet outside of that line Wood is only getting 50% of the calls.  Wood gave away the outside half of the plate, and the pitchers and umpires give him no benefit of the doubt.  Until Wood takes back the outside part of the plate, and shows he knows the difference between a ball and a strike, he won't get those calls.

Of course, it just may be that down and in is the only place where he can be successful when he swings.  If that's the case, he won't be in the majors much longer.

Friday
Apr082011

Gordon Beckham Adjusts

Gordon Beckham started 2011 well, hitting .308 through the first six games of the season, up from .260 during the first two years of his career.  In those first 234 games, Beckham established a pattern of hot hitting in the upper outside corner and the lower inside corner:

Gordon Beckham, In Play Average, 2009-2010.A pitcher looking at this graph should decide to try to pitch Beckham primarily low and away, secondarily up and in, in a diagonal forward slash.  The following heat map shows how pitchers approached Gordon in the first six games of 2011.

Gordon Beckham, pitch frequency seen, first six games of 2011.Pitcher are working low and away, but not up and in.  So why is Gordon hitting better?  He's going after those low, outside pitches.

Gordon Beckham, in play average, first six games of 2011.Batters can scout themselves, too.  Gordon clearly showed a weakness down and outside, and it appears he worked turning that weakness into a strength.  We'll see if it holds up during the season, but great hitters need to make adjustments like this, so take it as a positive sign that Beckham is working in the right areas.

Friday
Apr082011

HR Recap: Troy Tulowitzki vs. Paul Maholm (4/7/11)

Troy Tulowitzki hit a 4th inning home run of Paul Maholm yesterday in Pittsburgh.  It was actually a decent sequence of pitches from Maholm, but an even better job of hitting by Tulowitzki.

Troy Tulowitzki vs. LHP (2008 through April 6, 2011)
(Click to enlarge)
Tulowitzki vs. Maholm (4th inning, 4/7/2011)
(Click to enlarge)

Maholm started him out with two fastballs inside.  He then threw him a curve and a slider low, followed by fastball up.  On a full count, Troy took Maholm's 89 MPH inside fastball out of the park.  You can see that Maholm was trying to pitch to Tulowitzki's weak power zones.  But Troy was able to turn on it and deposit the pitch 390 feet away into the left field seats at PNC Park.